What do Emma Stone, John Mayer and Amanda Seyfried all have in common? They’ve all publicly admitted to suffering from panic attacks. Those who’ve experienced one will tell you it can feel crippling, life threatening. But, it doesn’t have to be. Psychiatrist, Dr. Dominick Sportelli joins us now via Skype to give us three tips to help calm a panic attack. So, Dom. Hey guys. Dr. Sportelli, I love that we’re going over this because obviously, there are medications that people will take if they’re having a panic attack, but these are non-medicinal ways that you can potentially break the spell if you will of a panic attack, so talk us through what people can do. Yeah, you got it so, listen guys, four million people suffer from panic attacks, and most people don’t even report it. So, that number’s probably so much higher than that and guess what you can add one name to your list and that’s me, I have suffered from panic attacks. They’re horrifying, they’re incredibly scary, and psychiatrists are not immune. I’m glad you admitted that doc, because sometimes those people who seem the most cool, calm, and collected and who are can still have panic attacks, and it’s not anything to be ashamed of. At all. So I am glad that you’re personally someone who knows how to treat it, but also have experienced it, can you do us a favor. Can you, before you go into the three tips, can you talk about even in your own, personal experience, what happens when you’re having a panic attack? It’s a physiologic response, it’s actually an evolutionary response to save our lives believe it or not. Here’s the thing your body thinks that it’s running from a Saber tooth tiger. So, your heart rate increases, you get short of breath, you start to sweat, your muscles tense up, blood goes to different places in your body so your G.I. system gets crampy and you get nauseous. So, the thing is that you’re not running from a tiger you’re probably just at a business meeting or you know on the stage of The Doctor’s or on Skype right. So, here’s the important thing, it’s an over reaction to a perceived threat, people become afraid of being afraid, so if you understand what causes the panic attack and you understand how to deal with it, it’s less scary so what we want to do is put the brakes on the sympathetic nervous system and activate what’s called the vagus nerve. And the vagus nerve is the parasympathetic nervous system. But its basically, slows down all of those symptoms. The racing heart, the shortness of breath, the nausea, the shaky, the sweaty feeling, and we have ways to activate that vagus nerve and calm your body down without medications. So, what’s tip number one Dr. Sportelli? All right, this is literally, when I say literally ground yourself, I mean it. I mean take off your shoes, get comfortable, put your feet on the ground, make sure you’re in a safe place if you’re driving, pull over for example. But if you’re in your house or in your office, take your shoes off, put your feet on the ground. Feel the ground, and at that point you’re gonna take slow deep breathes. Taking slow deep breathes activates that vagus nerve, that we were talking about. So, you’re gonna take a deep breath in for five seconds, you’re gonna hold for two and you’re gonna go out for five. Just that act is gonna slow your heart rate down, and prevent that snowball that we’re feeling. And I love your second tip, because this is something that we can use sometimes in the ER, something, sometimes we all do for fun after a hot run, but what is your tip number two? So tip number two, if you have the availability, guys fill up your sink with a really, really cold sink full of water, ice cold, as cold as you can make it. And dunk you head directly into the water. That will, or has been shown to slow your heart rate, down by up to 25%, and that can break a panic attack in and of itself. And talk to us about this last tip that involves, whether it be caressing or self massaging, what is that? Yeah, I love this one, so this one’s great, and I rolled up my sleeves, for you guys. So, this is called the wrist-forearm technique. And what you’re gonna do, is again keep in mind grounding, feet on the floor, comfortable, the breathing techniques that we talked about, and at the same time, grab your elbows and drag your hands along your forearms, down to your wrists, and then just repeat. Do that again, it’s just a little self massage, nice and easy, it’s very, very soothing at the same time breathing, and before you know it you’re gonna be super calm, super chill. Focus on that act, on that exercise, it does have a calming effect.
Yeah. Exactly, ’cause a part of it is just distracting your mind from thinking something horrible’s gonna happen.